BioWave Device Helps Vietnam Vet with Chronic Pain

By Pat Anson, Editor

A few months ago, Vietnam veteran Gregg Gaston was depressed and suicidal. Gaston shared his story with PNN readers in a guest column, telling how he suffered from years of chronic pain caused by a failed back surgery, peripheral neuropathy and post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD).

Despite his pain, Gaston’s doctor told him he was being cut back to a single dose of tramadol, a mild opioid analgesic. That was the last straw for Gaston, who at the age of 62 was fed up with debilitating pain and doctors who no longer wanted to treat it with opioids. In protest, Gaston fired his doctor and refused to fill his last prescription for tramadol.

GREGG GASTON

GREGG GASTON

“I've given up and am waiting now to die. I've lived a great life and have no expectations of my quality of life improving,” Gaston wrote.  “Common sense is fast disappearing. I'm done fighting.”

Fast forward three months and there’s been a remarkable change in Gaston’s mood and quality of life. The folks at BioWave, a Connecticut medical device company, saw Gaston’s column and sent him one of their neurostimulation units, which use high frequency electrical impulses to block pain signals.

“I was skeptical at first. I really was,” Gaston says. “Being at the breaking point and feeling desperate, I was only too eager to try it. And for me, it really works. I’m not 100 percent pain free, but I can get out of bed in the morning. It’s great, it really is.”

Before he started using BioWave, Gaston says his pain level was usually a 7 or 8 on the pain scale. Today, even on a bad day, it’s only a 3.

“If you have chronic pain you know what a difference that is,” he says. “I used to often sleep no more than 2 hours at a time, now I often sleep through the entire night.”

Think of BioWave as a more advanced version of a TENS unit. Electrodes wired to a battery and control unit send two high frequency signals through the skin into deep tissue, where they stimulate blood flow and block pain signals.

Each treatment takes 30 minutes, and the pain relief can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days, depending on the patient and their condition.  

“I started using it several times a day. But as I got feeling better in my back, I dropped it down to once a day. Now it’s once every two or three days,” says Gaston, who takes no pain medication outside of an aspirin. “They saved my life. My quality of life is still not great, but it’s better than what it was.”

BIOWAVE IMAGE

BIOWAVE IMAGE

BioWave has been around for a few years but is not widely known. It was first used by professional sports teams to treat athletes with sprains, tendonitis, muscle pain and other injuries. When it proved effective in treating chronic pain, dozens of pain clinics and VA hospitals started using BioWave devices.

BIOWAVE IMAGE

BIOWAVE IMAGE

“Most of the treatments deal with chronic pain and I would say the majority deal with lumbar and cervical pain. That’s probably the bread and butter for our device, but certainly any extremity pain in the shoulder, elbow, elbow, wrist or ankle. We can really treat almost any location on the body,” says Brad Siff, BioWave’s founder and president.

The company says over 75% of patients respond to BioWave treatment, with a significant improvement in their pain scores, mobility and stiffness. The device can even help patients with complex conditions such as arachnoiditis, a chronic and incurable spinal disease.  

“There’s a handful of anecdotal data that we have where arachnoiditis patients have responded. Similarly, patients with failed back surgery have been treated with BioWave and it helped them," Siff told PNN.

"I’m not saying it reduces their pain 100 percent, but some may get a 30, 40, 50 percent reduction in their pain and it lasts for a long period of time following the treatment."

BioWave is currently available only by prescription, but later this summer the company hopes to get FDA approval for a wearable over-the-counter home unit that can be purchased directly by patients. The final pricing hasn’t been determined, but Siff expects it to be between $300 to $400.

For more information, you can visit BioWave at their website by clicking here or by emailing them at info@biowave.com.

Vietnam Veteran: 'I'm Done Fighting'

By Gregg Gaston, Guest Columnist

My story is one of hopelessness. I am 62 years old and a navy Vietnam veteran. I did my time in Vietnam and was discharged honorably as a Chief Petty Officer in 1985 but did not retire.

I went to Kuwait as a logistics advisor for the Kuwait Air Force, stayed there for two years and then returned to the U.S. Desert Storm happened two years after that and I received a phone call wanting to know if I wanted to go back to support the Kuwait Air Force in efforts to retake their homeland. Back I went and stayed through 1995.

In 2002, I developed chronic back pain and had back surgery a few years later. The surgery went badly from the start and was not successful. The pain only grew worse and I was eventually diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy and failed back surgery syndrome. 

Then came the Veterans Administration, which diagnosed me with presumptive Agent Orange exposure. The VA would only pay for treatments for the myriad of things related to Agent Orange, such as pain meds for my legs and medications for high blood pressure. This medicine was prescribed through the local civilian pain management clinic.

I tried every combination of painkillers you can imagine, including but not limited to hydrocodone, methadone, gabapentin and morphine.

My doctor wanted to implant a morphine pain pump, but I refused. 

GREG GASTON

GREG GASTON

Time passed, and things got worse at the VA. A new voucher system, changing regulations, scheduling problems and constantly changing doctors took its toll on me -- as well as trying to differentiate between what happened during which war. At that point I fired the VA and embarked on my journey into privatized medical care. 

I was exposed to sarin gas during Desert Storm, so by then my ailments included chronic back and neck problems, peripheral neuropathy, post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) and extreme blood pressure problems. No drug completely relieved the pain, but I would take anything that helped even just a little. Over the years my doctors kept admitting they knew I needed more, but pressure from the government and the insurance companies limited what they could prescribe. 

Now we're into the present day and recently my doctor dropped me from three 50mg tramadol down to one 50mg tramadol per day. TRAMADOL for God's sake! I promptly told him where he could stick his tramadol. 

My doctor and I previously had a talk when I was hospitalized with two strokes on the same day. My directives to him were very simple. If you're not going to treat my pain, you're not going to treat anything. With that I stopped taking all my medications. I tried to explain about quality of life, which at this point I had none. It seemed to go over his head. Hospitals now only treat you for why you are in the emergency room, and even though you're admitted that's all they're treating. 

I've given up and am waiting now to die. I've lived a great life and have no expectations of my quality of life improving. 

I'd like to thank the VA, the other government agencies involved, legislatures and my local doctors for putting all their efforts into making things tough on people that are addicted or need pain medication.  

They have a problem which they don't know how to solve, so they’re taking the easy way out by taking all the meds away from EVERYONE. Screw those who really and legitimately need them. 

Common sense is fast disappearing. I'm done fighting, but I'll always be proud of my naval service and of my service to the State of Kuwait. Good luck to us all. 

bigstock-Tell-Us-Your-Story-card-with-c-78557009.jpg

Greg Gaston grew up in south Jersey and now lives in Texas. He has two daughters, six grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

Pain News Network invites other readers to share their stories with us. Send them to editor@painnewsnetwork.org

The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.